For many of us, modern day life means being cut off from the natural world our ancestors lived in.

We go to the grocery store and get standardized, pre-packaged food without even knowing where it came from or knowing exactly what it contains. Lots of commercially available food products have substances that can harm us in the long term.

The revolutionary solution? Going back to a system of independent food production that is more responsible and in touch with nature. This does not mean going backward: we can use modern scientific research to optimize the process!

If you are thinking of growing your own food— such as fish and plants— in an efficient and sustainable way, aquaponics is the right system for you. The name “aquaponics” is the combination of two other terms. These are hydroponics, which refers to growing plants in water (without soil), and aquaculture— that is, the raising of fish.

Aquaponic systems rely on combining plant and fish species wisely. A careful and well-thought design will guarantee that both types of creatures help each other thrive. The waste of the fish becomes an organic source of nutrients, and the fish make the water better for the plants. It is a truly sustainable ecosystem!

I bet you want to know which the 7 best species of fish for your aquaponic system are. Read on to find out!

The 7 Best Aquaponics Fish Species

#7 – Catfish

Catfish are one of the best choices of fish you can make to add to your own aquaponic system. Why? Well, they are fast to grow. This means you can have your system up and running in no time and you can replace fish as you need to.

There are many species of catfish swimming in almost all continents. They are edible and high in Vitamin D— very good for your health, though not particularly tasty. Catfish feed on insects, other fish, and plants, but might sometimes need supplements. On the downside, as they lack scales, you will have to skin them before eating.

#6 – Goldfish

Extremely popular among aquarium lovers, the goldfish is a good choice for those getting their bearings in aquaponics. These fish produce a lot of waste. This is a good thing: it provides your growing plants with much-needed nitrates. On the downside, because of their poor nutritional value, they are not to be eaten.

There are many species in the Goldfish family— it will be good to learn about their particular needs and behavior before you commit to buying one! As a rule, most goldfish are hardy and good for aquaponics. However, you must make sure that you are not combining single-tail and twin-tail varieties as this could mean that the slower twin-tails die.

#5 – Koi fish

Koi fish are elegant, sophisticated, and exotic. They bring a far East vibe to any aquarium and they are, perhaps surprisingly, an amazing addition to your aquaponic system.

These are hardy fish: Koi resist parasites that can kill other species. They can also live for up to 35 years. Yes, you read that right. They can eat just about anything, as they are omnivorous.

Their (slight) disadvantages are that their water needs extra oxygenation— which you will have to provide—, especially in the winter or if they live in small areas. Also, their flesh is quite poor and they are too expensive for eating.

#4 – Trout

If you are looking to build an aquaponics system in a colder area where other species of fish typically do not thrive, the trout is for you. This species lives happiest in water that is 10 to 20 degrees Centigrade.

Like the previously mentioned catfish, they grow fast. However, the flesh of the trout is way easier to prepare and much, much tastier. They will eat insects, worms, and water mollusks, keeping your aquaponic system balanced.

There are several species of trout, so you will have to do some research as to which fits your space and plans the best. Overall, though, all of them are good choices!

#3 – Largemouth Bass

If you are a fishing enthusiast, you are very familiar with this widespread species. Largemouth Bass can be found in freshwater all around North America and can live up to 15 years. These fish can eat anything from small mollusks and shrimp to other fish, snakes, and even small birds. They are also frequently fished for food!

Usually, largemouth bass tastes better when it is young. This is because of their odd diet and unregulated growth environment. However, if you plan on keeping them in your controlled aquaponic system, it is likely that the adult fish will taste good as well! Do keep in mind, though, that they will always have a strong taste.

#2 – Carp

Carp is a family made up of several similar species of freshwater fish that are frequently found in aquaculture. They are also sought for and beloved among avid fishermen! The flesh of carp is good for eating, though not as famous as salmon and trout.

They make good fish for aquaponic systems, as they are easy to reproduce and keep and can live up to 20 years, if well kept (and if you can resist the temptation to eat them!). They can eat lots of different foods such as insects and algae, and quickly adapt to a new environment.

#1 – Tilapia

These pretty fish are actually a group of several species that are similar enough to be grouped under the Tilapia name. They are the perfect choice for aquaponics lovers.

Not only are they able to live in even poor water conditions (though you really should take care that your system is nice and clean), but they are also fast to grow and easy to care for— they eat simple plant food. Last but not least, they are tasty and an incredibly good source of protein.

Final Thoughts

If you want to start working toward sustainable food independence and you have some suitable space, aquaponics is the right decision for you.

You will get your own plants and fish and you will know exactly how they were raised. Besides, there are few things more gratifying than being in contact with nature and living out the heritage of our more self-sufficient ancestors. Pick your fish, plan, and get moving!

Bonus – Dragon Koi Fish